I watch my daughter with awe as she walks and talks and makes decisions and communicates her thoughts. She is such a perfect learning machine. I have struggled to stay out of the way and let her grow and learn through play and life. There are certain things that are harder for me than others. Sharing is one of the things that is hardest for me.
Sharing public space when we are out can be tough. Like Mama Eve, I get the feeling I am stepping on people’s toes or frustrating others when I allow her to explore as an independent person. Having someone shush my child is not an easy moment, and it makes me think that staying home is a better option.
Even harder than sharing public space, though, is sharing with other children. My strong reaction is to step in and make sharing happen. If my child takes a toy, I want to take it from her and give it back. I somehow think saying “It’s Olivia’s turn” will make my thievery more meaningful.
There are two problems I have with my interference with the process of learning about sharing:
- It’s all about me, the adult. Often I’m not convinced that either child cares about sharing as the adults do. My adult motivation and perspective is generally not a place I want to start from when I am trying to effectively help my child learn something I think is important.
- I’m not sure how the children involved really understand and learn from me doing exactly what I told them not to do. It seems hypocritical, or, at the very least, it seems a confusing double-standard.
I want my daughter to share out of a true sense of empathy.
I don’t think my past actions have been leading in that direction. It always feels wrong and awkward stepping in and over my child. I feel pressure to do something in the moment to show people that I am teaching my child to share. Perhaps I am trying not to be “one of those moms” that lets their kid do anything they want? Sometimes people force my kid to share, or, somehow worse, force their child to share even if my daughter doesn’t care and their child really does. (I read about just one such scenario that happened to Mama Eve.)
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about how I don’t want to follow my first reaction, but I haven’t figured out why, really. Then, came across Mama Eve’s posts on How to Teach Sharing by Giving up Control, How I’m Learning to Let My Children Go, and 5 Playground Lessons I Never Knew I Was Teaching. She is trying to embrace the RIE philosophy (Resources for Infant Educarers) which is founded in the respect for children as active agents in their lives, as opposed to the passive observers our society often encourages them to be.
Reading about her reflections on letting children develop their own sense of empathy and caring for others has inspired me. I don’t want to do something because I think other people expect me to do it. Now that I calmed that voice, I can hear my instincts telling me to treat these situations like everything else. If I can trust her to learn to chop vegetables and other tasks by doing, then I should trust her to learn to share by doing.